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Our neighbor George recently asked, "How do you celebrate or practice Easter not simply as a historical event that happened 2,000 years ago but in our daily lives?"

He went on to comment that on Easter morning you often hear the words, "Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!" Although the celebration of the Nativity is important, the Easter/Resurrection event is foundational to the Christian faith. It is paramount in three important ways.

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First, it celebrates the mystery of the resurrection event of 2,000 years ago where human lives were transformed from fear to proclamation. Second, it is a reminder that hearts and lives are still being touched and changed by the spiritual presence of the living Jesus. Third, it presents a challenge to each one of us to "practice resurrection" in our daily lives.

First of all, to understand the meaning of Easter, continued George, we need to go beyond simply seeing it as a "spring thing." Spring is a wonderful time of the year. Birds are singing, flowers are blooming, trees are budding and rabbits are hopping. But the celebration of new life is more than birds, flowers, trees and rabbits. If the birds stopped singing, and the flowers did not bloom, and the trees did not bud and the rabbits stopped hopping, would we still have Easter?

I am reminded of one of my favorite passages in the Hebrew scriptures from the seventh-century prophet Habakkuk who wrote, "Though the fig tree does not blossom, and there is no fruit on the vine, though the produce of the olive fails, and the fields yield no food, though the flock is cut off from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls ..." It certainly sounds like a sad and desolate time, doesn't it? Yet the prophet goes on "….yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will exalt in the God of my salvation." (3.17-18).

Easter brings living hope. Living hope is not wishful thinking. It is based on the faith belief that something happened to the lives of those believers 2,000 years ago and it can still happen to our lives today. "In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." (I Peter 1.3). When all seems lost "Easter Hope" continues to light the way. We may not have all the answers, but "Hope" keeps us going.

The Gospel writers all write in their own unique ways but there is one common theme. No matter how they understood the mystery of Easter morning, they all have in common the faith belief that somehow the crucified Jesus was alive. Not only was he alive but his resurrection presence had meaning for their lives and 2,000 years later it still has meaning for ours. The mystery of Easter is that the death of Jesus on the cross is not the end. It continues to offer us the hope that in the midst of the darkness of this world God is not defeated and therefore we are not defeated.

The Lord may have risen but what about me? I don't believe this is a selfish question. In light of the empty tomb we not only believe God can do anything but can God change me and you? Can there be radical change in human hearts and lives? The answer is "yes." We must receive and eternalize the Easter "good news." The message of resurrection is that we are offered hope. And resurrection hope can change our lives.

We have just gone through what is traditionally called Holy Week. Beyond simply retelling the story there are some critical themes. Palm Sunday reminds us not only of the obedience (even unto death) of Jesus to follow the will of God but also his love confrontation with those who would preach hate and vengeance. Holy/Maundy Thursday is not only the institution of the Lord's Supper but also the call of Jesus to take a basin and towel and wash feet. Whether we like it or not we are commanded to be a servant of all. Good Friday is not only the day of crucifixion but also those unforgettable words of forgiveness, "Father, forgive them for they don't know what they are doing."

No matter how much we try to explain the Easter resurrection of Jesus, it is still a mystery.

There are those who say "how can you believe that a man was killed and three days later he was resuscitated back to life?" It is not rational. It doesn't make sense. Our response is three-fold. The four Gospels were written years after the death and resurrection of Jesus from independent sources yet all of them point to the central theme of resurrection. They are trustworthy faith documents. When the "power of the resurrection" came to those early followers it radically changed their lives. From fear to joy! From hiding behind closed doors to risking their very lives in proclamation of "good news!" The exciting news is that the "fear to joy" change is still happening today.

We are called, even commanded, to practice Easter through our lives in our world today. We need a faith that can roll back the rock guarding the tomb of darkness and set us free in the light of Easter morning.

Free to ... give drink to the thirsty, to welcome the stranger and migrant, to give clothing to the naked, to care for the sick, to visit those in prison, to fight for justice and righteousness, to forgive as we have been forgiven, to be a peace maker not just a peace lover, to be an "agent of reconciliation, to offer our lives in obedience as he offered his.

Let dialogue continue. I only ask that you think on these things.

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